Australia’s largest not-for-profit health and aged care provider, St Vincent’s Health Australia, has backed calls for the offshore detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru to be evacuated and for those refugees and asylum seekers unsuccessful in being resettled in the United States to be transferred and housed in Australia.
St Vincent’s Health CEO, Toby Hall, said St Vincent’s hospitals had a history supporting the health needs of people seeking asylum through the delivery of primary healthcare and free diagnostic services. The organisation also provides tertiary and mental health services to asylum seekers and refugees accessing its public hospitals in Melbourne and Sydney.
Mr Hall said he was concerned with the long term health impacts on people held indefinitely in Australia’s offshore detention centres.
“Our experience providing care to asylum seekers in the community, is that mental health issues represent the highest burden of disease and antidepressants are the highest prescribed medication in this population,” said Mr Hall.
“The situation is much worse in offshore detention centres. Medical experts with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees who visited Manus Island and Nauru last year found alarming rates of mental health problems in people who have been held there for the last four years.
“They found that 88% of asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island were suffering from a depressive or anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. These rates were considered far in excess of comparable populations such as refugees resettled in Australia or asylum seekers in the Australian community.
“The inadequate medical services on Manus Island and Nauru and the detrimental health impacts of keeping asylum seekers in extended periods of detention are creating a mental health crisis.
“We cannot ignore the body of clinical and research evidence about the detrimental effects of holding people indefinitely in detention,” said Mr Hall.
St Vincent’s Health’s Group Mission Leader, Lisa McDonald, said St Vincent’s would provide asylum seekers and refugees resettling in Australia from Manus Island and Nauru with medical support and health care.
“In early 2016, St Vincent’s offered health care to asylum seekers facing deportation to Nauru as part of our sacred duty of care: that we support vulnerable and marginalised people who need healing; that we help prevent people falling into ill health or harm.
“St Vincent’s once again reaffirms our willingness to provide quality health care to the desperate men, women and children on Manus and Nauru if they are brought to Australia. It’s the right thing to do,” said Ms McDonald.